Post-Surgery Wound Care

What should I expect following the procedure?

  • You will leave the office with a bandaged wound that may or may not be sutured.
  • It is common to experience some pain, swelling, discomfort and bruising.
  • If you follow the wound care instructions below, it will help minimize discomfort.

How should I care for my surgical site?

  • Avoid strenuous activity for at least two weeks following the procedure. This restriction covers any athletic activities including but not limited to the following: working out, golf, tennis, swimming, weight-lifting, running etc.
  • Avoid exposing the surgical site to sunlight.
  • Avoid swimming pools, lakes, hot tubs etc. until the wound is healed.
  • Avoid alcohol for four days: two days before and two days after the procedure.
  • Avoid smoking to promote healing and to reduce risk of infection.
  • The bandage should remain in place for 48 hours. If the bandage appears loose during this time, you may, if necessary, reinforce the bandage with additional tape and gauze.
  • After 48 hours, gently remove the bandage and follow the instructions below:
    • Gently clean the site with mild soap and water.
    • Re-apply a fresh bandage twice per day.
    • Apply Vaseline or Aquaphor to the site every time the bandage is replaced.
    • Continue this process until sutures are removed.
  • If Steri-Strips were applied with or without sutures, please do the following:
    • Remove the initial bandage after 48 hours.
    • Do not clean or apply ointment to the site.
    • Do not remove the Steri-Strips. They will fall off after 7 to 14 days. If they haven't fallen off after three weeks, you may remove them by applying rubbing alcohol and then gently peel them off.
    • Follow any additional instructions provided by your surgeons.
    • After the Steri-Strips fall off, follow the wound care instructions below.
  • If the wound was left open to heal without sutures, please follow the instructions below. The wound will take longer to heal, depending on the location of the surgical site; it can take up to 12 weeks to heal fully.
    • Gently clean the site with mild soap and water.
    • Re-apply a fresh bandage twice per day.
    • Apply Vaseline or Aquaphor to the site every time the bandage is replaced.
    • While the wound is healing, you will notice a pink/red ring around the wound and a yellow material on the inside of the wound. This is normal and is no cause for concern.
  • If you receive a skin graft, please follow the skin graft aftercare instructions you will receive.

What are some possible side effects I might experience?

  • Inflammation, swelling, and bruising can be expected during this period of time.
    • Gently apply an ice- or a cold-pack to the area, on top of the bandage, for 15-minutes-on-the-site and 15-minutes-off-the-site. The site will be tender following the procedure.
    • Elevating the body part while sleeping may help alleviate swelling.
    • Inflammation and swelling can last a few weeks especially in certain areas like lips and eyelids which have thin skin.
  • Pain Management
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is recommended for pain management. Take 500- 1000mg every 6 hours, but do not exceed 3000mg in a 24-hour period. If you have medical problems with your liver, please consult your primary care doctor regarding the amount of medication you can safely take.
    • Ibuprofen may be used if Acetaminophen is unable by itself to control pain. Take 400-600mg every six hours. Do not take if you have a sensitivity to NSAID medication. You may rotate Tylenol and ibuprofen for optimal pain control.
  • If bleeding occurs, apply firm pressure for 15 continuous minutes. DO NOT PEEK at the wound. If the bleeding doesn't stop, repeat the process. This may take up to 45 minutes. If bleeding is persistent or excessive, please contact our office.
  • If the surgical site becomes infected or you experience significant pain, please contact our office immediately.
  • If the bandage creates irritation at the surgical site, please contact our office immediately.
  • Numbness or tingling is common and can last up to 18 months. It is possible the sensation may never fully recover to the pre-surgical baseline level.

Location-Specific Instructions

  • Face
    • Apply an ice- or cold-pack for 15-minutes-on-the-site and 15-minutes-off-the-site. Do this three times per day for the first three days.
    • Depending on the location of the wound, you may develop two black eyes. Continue to ice the site.
    • If the wound is on the lip, practice "lip rest." Avoid large bites of food, excessive talking, or drinking through straws.
    • If the wound is on the nose, you can dab or gently wipe your nose, but do not blow your nose. This may break the sutures and delay healing.
  • Hand
    • Apply an ice- or cold-pack for 15-minutes-on-the-site and 15-minutes-off-the-site. Do this three times per day for the first three days.
    • Keep your hand elevated above your heart. Prop up your hand when sleeping.
    • Avoid as much movement as possible for the first 48 hours.
    • Minimize hand/wrist/arm movement for at least two weeks.
  • Lower Leg
    • This area of your body will take longer to heal than other areas of your body.
    • If you are diabetic, an antibiotic may be prescribed.
    • Swelling of the leg is likely to occur following the procedure.
    • Walk as little as possible. Do not participate in extensive activity for at least two weeks.
    • Keep leg elevated as much as possible for at least two weeks.
    • Support stockings may be prescribed.
    • An Unna Boot may be applied. See Unna Boot Instructions for more details.

How do I care for the site following the removal of the sutures, Steri-Strips, or closing of the wound?

  • The need for a bandage should be minimal or unnecessary.
  • Clean the surgical site daily.
  • One month after the sutures are removed, you should begin massaging the wound site.
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